Retailers face a significant challenge when it comes to effectively managing and leveraging the volumes of structured and unstructured data across the gamut of customer interactions. The data is coming from many sources, both internal and external, is high volume, and needs to be processed quickly in order to deliver meaningful insights that sales associates, marketers, managers, and customer service representatives can leverage to make better business decisions.
1) Treat external data as if it were your own
In order to derive the most meaningful insight, retailers need to be able to accommodate and leverage not only internal data, but external data as well. By external data, I am primarily referring to third-party market data, vendor data, social media, and demographics.
Retailers need to integrate basic data, such as transaction history and purchase frequency, with external data, and be able to harness information in multiple ways, from structured databases and distributed predictive analytic systems, to mining unstructured data.
2) Don’t just think of BI in terms of reporting…it’s much more than that
Reporting is certainly a piece of what constitutes BI, but it’s not the only piece. When we talk about BI for retailers, we’re really talking about analytics. It’s not just about running reports to provide users with a historical and current view of the business; it’s more about giving users the ability to recognize that there is a problem, know why they problem occurred, and then solve the problem immediately without leaving the BI application. Examples of actions to “solve the problem” are triggering a workflow to order more stock, or running a promotion based on certain events. Your BI software partner should be showing you how they support this “insight to action,” instead of just showing you how to execute reports.
3) There’s only one version of the truth
Ensure multiple versions of the truth are eliminated by making decisions based on a single, centralized data repository. When your BI software vendor starts talking about all of the features and functions within their BI solution, make sure they also tell you about their data warehouse. Retailers need a BI solution that works with a data warehouse to easily combine and analyze data maintained in different applications, creating a single, comprehensive source of the truth. And something else to definitely consider is whether the vendor offers a Software as a Service (SaaS) model for their BI solution. A SaaS solution can not only deliver a single source of truth, but with no infrastructure costs and a rapid ROI.
4) Think cross-channel!
It is no longer acceptable to understand buyer behavior from only one channel. Every aspect of a retailer’s operations needs to be dynamic to respond to the ever-increasing demands of the consumer, across all channels. In order for retailers to understand what motivates the customers at each stage of the buying process, they need to leverage cross-channel analytics that provide a 360-degree view of the customer.
5) Emphasize usability and extensibility
In the early days of BI, users had to have deep technical skills to be able to create reports and understand the true meaning of analytics, and they were restricted to working from a designated terminal on a closed network. Today, information can be accessed on almost every mobile device, from cloud-based netbooks, or via in-store portals. Retailers need to ensure a common infrastructure for producing and delivering enterprise reports, scorecards, dashboards, and ad hoc analysis while empowering end-users with real-time, 24×7 access to self-service BI, mobile BI, and the ability to create their own BI content and personalized dashboards using a simple, easy point-and-click interface. Make sure that your BI software vendor can fully support the concept of “model once deploy anywhere.”